I did it! Since writing my last post about learning to drive, I have passed my theoretical exam and took 20-hour lessons, and now I can drive (alone) to practice before taking my driving exam. Ok, it will not be for this year, but early next year (2021), but he, COVID happened and I’m amazed that I have still managed to get this far.
Each time that I was waiting for my driving instructor, I was waiting there with 18 ish-year-olds…I was by far always the eldest, and this made me realize (and the obstructor pointed out a few points as well) that there are advantages and disadvantages to learning how to drive (a manual btw).
So this is what I have come to realise about learning to drive at over 40 years old.
What I have come to realize
Is it learning difficult when over 40? YES
I’m a passive driver. In other words, slow.
My bladder is elderly, even though I’m not yet. Had to make a few stops during lessons.
It certainly does not come naturally to me…but maybe it would not have come naturally to me at 18 either.
I did not think that I could swear in a certain way.
I now understand why people complain about old people behind wheel.
I also understand why some people tend to associate a personality with a special mark of a car (thinking of BMW’s and such)
I never really realized how many people on the road are a hazard (or simply being idiots) Just crossing the road without looking, throwing their car doors open without looking for oncoming cars.
There is little worse for our planet than constantly producing new stuff and throwing it away again and again. Fortunately, the second-hand market offers a solution. Before I show you what second-hand stuff I have in my house (in my following post), I explain why it is so important to (learn to) appreciate second-handand how to do it!
Why re-use gives environmental benefits
Second-hand items can bring considerable environmental gains. Reuse extends the lifespan of the equipment. If you buy something second hand, nothing new needs to be made. This way you save raw materials, energy, and waste needed to make new stuff. Are you going to use something for a short period of time, like baby clothes? Or is it indestructible, like a batch of garden tiles? Then it certainly pays to buy it second hand and resell it after use.
Buying second hand is necessarily more economical. The gain can be more or less important. But if you take the time to search, the finds can be really amazing: reusable egg boxes to go to the market at 50 cents, wicker baskets at 3€, toys at -70%…
For very specific products, it is important to do some scouting, a “market study” to buy at the right price. Indeed, the occasion is fashionable, so some people see it as an opportunity to make money. Below are some tips on how to find your way around.
Typical second-hand must-knows
It’s dirty & it smells bad
When you buy second-hand, you have to deal with the “old life” of the objects. Nevertheless, there is no risk of catching diseases with second-hand purchases. Our advice :
Clothes: whether it is a different laundry smell or that of clothes left in boxes for a long time, after being washed a few times and worn, the clothes will quickly take on your usual smell.
Objects or toys: as soon as I buy an object or toy, I clean it before use. For example, in the case of a puzzle, I assemble it to check that nothing is missing and then I clean it with a dry cloth and the vinegar multi-purpose cleaning spray. Same for books.
For baskets and wicker objects: clean with black soap.
Buying and giving second-hand gifts does not mean giving gifts of lesser value.
In the face of these criticisms, one of the counter-arguments is that you can find completely new second-hand things! Double gifted gifts and non-exchangeable ones, purchased errors, unworn clothes with labels: it is very common to find things still in their original packaging…
Of course, second-hand purchases are sometimes favored by the least wealthy households, but not necessarily. Today, buying vintage/retro is in fashion. There are more and more of us out there, who buy second-hand by choice: to avoid over-consumption, to save money compared to a new purchase…
My tips and tricks for second-hand purchases
Make it habitual
In recent years, I have adopted an “opportunity reflex”. As soon as I (our we as a family) have a need: I systematically look to see if this product exists on the second-hand market. And in 90% of the cases, this search is successful and avoids a new *new* purchase.
Locate and study prices
Before buying second-hand, it is always good to do a little “market research”. You can find out the new sale price of the product you want by estimating the price you want to put on it.
In fact, second-hand purchases are on the rise, and some people see this as an opportunity to make money. Fortunately, it is often possible to make good deals, so don’t hesitate to negotiate if you think it is necessary.
Take guarantees when necessary
Buying legos or pants, does not require the same level of attention as buying a household appliance for example. For the former, do not hesitate to ask for photos if those in the ad are not enough. For household appliances, it is possible to find second-hand, in very good condition or even almost new. Do not hesitate to ask for the purchase or maintenance invoice! Many second-hand shops give a warranty with bigger electrical appliances.
Give preference to local purchases
One of the first reflexes quickly adopted is to always check that the product is available near us before buying it on the Internet. In the case of second-hand items, I do a first local search before expanding to the region and then to the whole of Belgium if I really can’t find it. This allows me to save both shipping costs and pollution-related to transport.
Where to buy second hand?
In a specialized store
In second-hand stores you can often buy furniture, clothes, toys and household goods. You can also put your old stuff there. Some second-hand stores sell stuff in your place, so you can make some money from it. You can also sell furniture or works of art at an auction.
Kringwinkel Chain of second-hand stores all over the country. The income from sales is mainly used to maintain and create jobs for people who have few opportunities in the labor market. www.dekringwinkel.be
Think Twice Think Twice is a branch that offers a wide range of vintage clothes at affordable prices. T2 gives its customers the opportunity to freely create their own individual styles, thereby spreading the love for second-hand fashion The Think Twice Facebook Page
Oxfam Solidarity Used stores run by Oxfam Solidariteit. The proceeds will go to development projects in North and South. There are 42 stores in Belgium, some specializing in books and others in vintage clothing. http://www.oxfamsol.be
Ecoshop and Troc Chains of stores with second-hand furniture and household goods, where you can sell your own stuff. www.ecoshop.be www.troc.com
All second-hand outlets This website gives an overview of used stores in Flanders, from clothes to cars and computers. www.tweedehands-info.be
Don’t hesitate to use Google to translate!
There are also stores that do not specialize in second-hand but offer second-hand products alongside the new. I’m thinking of Bol.com and I just read in the newspaper today that Ikea plans on doing the same.
Garage sales and flea markets
Garage sales have been very fashionable for a few years now, unfortunately not so much now during Covid times, but hopefully, things will get back to “normal” at one stage or another.
People have a stand there to empty their houses and for passersby to find the right opportunity. I advise you not to go there with an idea in mind because by experience you rarely find what you came looking for. In spite of the diversity of the offer, if you look hard enough you will often find what you are looking for. Go as early as possible is my main tip!
As for flea markets, or *Rommelmarkten* as they say here in Flanders, they have long been known to be the place to go for antiques and other rarities found in attics by antique dealers. Sometimes the prices are quite expensive compared to the garage sales, but go and do not hesitate to negotiate!
Online classifieds: You can buy as well as sell. Are you looking for something very concrete? Then you can set up a search function, which notifies you by email when someone has placed such an ad. There are many other sites where you can buy, auction, or sell second-hand items.
Vinted: Personally my very favorite for clothing and toys. Very quickly Vinted has established itself as the new reference in the sale and purchase of second-hand clothing in particular. Its advantage? It allows you to make advanced selections by size, brand, condition, location. We can easily find the desired clothes according to our requirements! But also toys or other items such as Christmas toys. I have just recently been able to buy a brand new school bag for my son made out of reusable plastic. So, double win on sustainability!
Instagram: this social network has a lot of accounts that do online second-hand sells and it is the opportunity to discover real pearls. I have a few that I particularly like: like
Facebook Marketplace: it is an online marketplace very similar to the online classifieds. You can find anything from toys to a used car.
To conclude on the second- hand buying lifestyle
While for some people it is instinctive, for others, buying second hand is a mental step that can be difficult to take. Nevertheless, the advantages can be countless!
And as for the rest, I advise you to go “step by step”. One can start perhaps with a book or a game if the idea of wearing an already used garment is an “uncomfortable idea”. Then, once you have become familiar with the idea, you can take it one step further!
For example, this year is a new milestone for me: I’m looking for my first (used) car! Pray that I find the right one. 😀
Just go for it!
Before you go, here is a Belgian list for online buying and selling
eBay The best-known auction site. You can sell stuff through an online auction or an ad. www.e-bay.be
Velt Offers of second-hand eco-products on the website of Velt, the Association for Ecological Life, and Gardening. You can offer your stuff for sale or for free, place an ad for what you need, or offer something to trade. www.velt.be
Stukot.be The Flemish colleges and universities, in collaboration with KBC and Tapptic, are launching the website Stukot.be. Students can buy and sell their room stuff and their expensive (well-maintained) manuals) directly to other room students. Thanks to the expertise of Tapptic, responsible for the design and development of the website, the website has been optimized to be visited via the web as well as on a smartphone or tablet computer. Later, the website will be launched in Wallonia. www.stukot.stumarkt.be
Uw Kringding Auction website of De Kringwinkel, one of my favorite thrift stores! Not only do they help the environment, but they also create social employment spots! www.uwkringding.be
Did this article make you want to try second-hand shopping? Any tips for me to discover?
I was raised with having no cable tv and to make matters worse, we had BETA instead of VHS. The horror! Meaning that I could not borrow any videos from my friends. (hey, I grew up in the ’80s)
So when I became the independent teenage mom that I am today (not so teenage anymore), I said hello to cable TV. Oh, the hours we have spent, just flipping through channels, never really finding something worth watching. Besides Friends.
Then came digital tv, you could now have the tv on demand, skip the commercials. What a luxury.
But I came to realize that we were watching less and less tv. It would only come on in the evening, preferably with Sushi, and my daughter and I would watch 90-day fiancé on TLC together or Doctor Pol on Animal planet, while mister six would be watching his own program on Netflix.
But that was about it.
I was paying a lot of money for something that we were not actually using , plus being a single mom, wanting to buy her first car, I wanted to make some cuts here and there. And with cutting the cord and only keeping the internet, this made a significant difference.
So yesterday was our first evening without TV, my daughter switched on a video from YouTube on how to train Doxies (her’s is a pain in the bum, *mister bark-a-lot*). We were actually watching something useful for once, instead of catfishing people on a 90-day fiancé.
But it still feels weird to me.
I miss the channel flipping, even though I found it annoying before.
I just have to face the fact that I’m becoming old and that I am now finding it easier to understand how old folk don’t like change.
But I DID CHANGE, so not that old yet. Ha! 😀
Still want to watch tv/tv shows online, in Belgium? These are the options.
We all know NETFLIX – Available for all screens via Chromecast, on Apple TV and Smart TV (LG, Sony, Philips, Samsung, Haier). You already have a subscription from 7,99 € per month.
Sooner – The largest online catalog of arthouse movies. Subscriptions start at 7,99 €. Thousands of films, selected by a team of film lovers. A dozen new films are added every week.
Amazon Prime Video – Just like Netflix, Prime Video from Amazon gives you on-demand access to movies, series, and documentaries. Maybe less popular series than on Netflix, but often real gems! Subscribers to Amazon Prime get a free subscription. Otherwise, you pay 5,99 € per month. Available on Smart TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and now also on Chromecast.
Disney + – It has finally arrived in Belgium! Just in time for another imminent lockdown maybe. On Disney +, you can discover the best stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic in one place. From hit movies to timeless classics and new originals – there’s something for everyone and all of this for 6,99 € monthly.
TV Vlaanderen – Want to watch Belgian channels? Well TV Vlaanderen is a streaming service that allows you to watch live on 18 top channels (including VTM, one, Canvas, FOUR, FOX, National Geographic, BBC Entertainment, Ketnet, …). You pay 9,95 € per month for the “light version” and can play everything through your TV via AirPlay or Chromecast. They also have options for through satellite or antenna.
I’m hoping that Acorn Tv will one day be available in Belgium. Just love British comedies and mysteries. Pleeeeeeeeeaaaase!
Cutting the cord, have you done this already? Any regrets? Any favourite streaming website? I would love to learn more about this trend.
I try to share monthly with you things that have brought Sparks of Joy into my life. It will not always be things, but it can be an outing, it can be a craft I did with my son, a new recipe I tried out. It can just be anything.
So now, my list of things that have sparked some Joy and given me a thrill these past months!
Dumplings! This is a brand new craving that I have developed during the COVID lockdown. I tried making some myself, but they were just not the same. So enjoying lot’s of them, now the restrictions have eased. My favorite spot in Antwerp, up until now, is a Bah Mei in the Antwerp Chinese district. I dare you to find me an even better one!
Wine! Now that we are spending more time at home, why not with a nice bottle of vino? Loving this new-found wine called Dark Horse. I actually bought it for my miss 26yo, because of the horse on it of course…turned out to be actually good.
Corky Masks! Now that the new fashion fad is face masks, I have quite a collection now. Two of my favorites is one that I bought on Etsy. And a vegan/sustainable one made out of cork, from a local store called Captain Cork.
Favorite toy bough this past month is for sure the new Super Mario Lego set! I already know what I’m getting my little mister for Sinterklaas.
Nice inviting smells are major “Sparks of Joy” for me, so my all-time favorite reed diffuser is from Atelier Rebul, the Istanbul. But will be trying a new one out next month.
That was it for this past month. Looking forward to discovering new and fun things. Drop me a line if you want me to try something out.
This is a frequently asked question from many of my “mom” Facebook groups. We are all looking for that one unique birthday party. No indoor playgrounds (I really hate those), no “let’s just wing it” home birthday parties where the only thing planned was the decorations and cake. (the kids will entertain themselves, right?)
Well, look no further, I have collected here for you loving parents, a list of interesting and unique birthday party ideas for your little special person.
Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue – Antwerp city
For those little creative souls out there, this place certainly will catch one’s eye.
A place where fun and creativity come together.
Where an artist’s studio and fine foods merge.
Somewhere you can experience a wide range of creative workshops not only children but for adults as well.
Here you also enjoy art events every week, such as film evenings, vernissages, and performances.
For the birthday parties, there is a workshop, cake, time to open presents, and even room for free play!
They do this by providing workshops for children’s birthday’s in an extremely beautiful setting. It’s building (the former justice of the peace) is situated in the hip “Oud-Berchem” neighborhood.
I just love the workshop themes they have. Workshops like making slime monsters, a jewelry-making workshop. Just such wonderful ideas, even a “designer” workshop for the little fashionista’s. LOVE!
Sprookjespad/ Fairytale path – Brasschaat
The Fairytale Path is a magical walk through park De Mik. During the walk, an experienced guide guides the children to a fantasy world with stories, songs, and games.
The activity lasts about two hours and starts at the Mikerf petting zoo, goes through the park and around the pond to the listed tower gate, where the children can stay for half an hour in the beautiful wishing tower.
There is a sweet little tavern where they sell pancakes or ice cream, but you need to book it separately. But my preference would be having a picnic at the lake with a view over the castle and tower. The children will love this!
Zoo van Antwerpen / Zoo van Planckendael – Mechelen
Due to the measures taken concerning the coronavirus, birthday parties can not be booked.The parks however are open.
We have done this one too. My son loves the zoo and I though that it was the perfect idea.
You can choose between the toddler safari and the Creepy Creatures theme.
You have a guide who will explain all you want to know about the animals, and the walk ends with pancakes and a drink!
My son even receive a turtle stuffed toy.
I did find it pricey and we were hoping to have a close up of the animals or something special, but it was just a guided (well-guided) walk around. I might be picky, probably because we are proud owners of year passes and visit a lot so it did not feel much different from our other visits.
But still a great idea for the animal lovers! And we love the Zoo all year round.
If you found your way to my post “Homeschool Kindergarten- The corona semester”, you are probably like me, having to keep your children home from school due to the COVID-19.
Life in Belgium
Here in Belgium, all school lessons will be suspended starting today, March 16. However, the government called on citizens not to rely on grandparents to look after children meaning schools will still be responsible for providing care when parents have no choice but to work and for those who work in health care. The suspension of classes is until at least after Easter break. So many of you like me have to keep your children home. Yay?
My ‘dream’ of homeschooling (something very uncommon in Belgium) is coming true. But I know that my “dream” is considered a nightmare for others. I sympathize with those parents who still have to go out to work or are working from home with children already bored since this weekend.
I truly know that staying at home with kids can be a challenge, but it is what it is for now and we all need to try and make the best of it I suppose. But parents, do what you need to do to keep your sanity.
For me it, it’s having a schedule, for others, it’s switching on the TV for the kids while you go take a bath…it’s ok (yes, I’m thinking of you friend). These are unexpected times.
Schools have asked the parents to not treat this time as an extra school vacation but to try and keep our children academically motivated and busy. Some schools even providing homework and objectives.
So here I’m sharing with you what our homeschool kindergarten- The corona semester (3de kindergarten class, Belgium) looks like for now.
We won’t be very strict in following it, it’s more of a guideline. Right now it’s 10:30 am and my six-year-old is sitting on the table drawing Yoshi character from his new Nintendo Switch game. It’s all good momma!
Pinterest is full of great ideas! Here is my board with ideas I love and tried out. Pin some.
I love Instagram and I love following other moms in particular. One of the tags I follow is actually is #momlife. I love seeing artsy pictures of cute children in cute outfits, I love seeing toys and crafts that I haven’t seen before and I love getting local tips or travel tips to try out with my 6-year-old.
I’m currently inspired & captivated with these 5 Instagram mom bloggers from Antwerp that you must go follow now. Seriously, do it. Now!
My top 5 Antwerp Instagram moms
Name Jessica // Blog: Exploring Life // Instagram: @jessicanobels– Teacher, blogger and an environmentalist with the cutest girls ever. Something about kids and glasses makes my heart melt. Maybe because my son wears them too.
Name: Lynn // Blog: Averechtse // Instagram: @LynnFormesyn – She is not the typical Instagram mom. She mainly uses Instagram to advocate for people with chronic pain (people like me). She is a gifted writer with an honest pen and recently wrote a book. Truly inspiring woman.
Name: Lies // Blog: Liesellove // Instagram:@Liesellove – She is a #momentrepreneur in the digital world and has a wonderful taste in taking colorful pictures of her super cute family. Also very inspiring when it comes to family travels.
So these were my My top 5 Antwerp Instagram moms!
Who would you like to add to this post? I cannot get enough of these strong power mama’s! Leave them for me in the comments and I’ll be sure to check them out!
I’ve decided to share with you guys a mini list of things that have sparked joy for me in the past month. I know when you hear “Sparks Joy” you are probably thinking of the Netflix series with Marie Kondo, about organizing and minimizing your belongings.
I watched that show just before moving last October and I must say, I found it very helpful when sorting through my stuff. The phrase now always pops in my head when organizing or when even shopping for things. Does it spark joy? Does it give me a thrill?
So I’m going to share monthly with you what has sparked joy in the past month for me. It won’t always be things, but it can be an outing, it can be a craft I did with my son, a new recipe I tried out. It can just be anything.
To refresh my memory while writing this post, I first check my Instagram where I share e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g ….I’m an oversharer I’ve been told. ?
So here is a list of things that have sparked some Joy and given me a thrill this past month.
This amazing from Teaja that my sister gave me Christmas. I love it so much that I finished it today. *insert sobbing*
My friends spark a lot of joy, especially for helping me out with my crazy cargo bike situation.
This year we’ve started learning bible verses with the ABC’s bible verses printable found on Pinterest. So with Bible verses and Pinterest spark some joy.
This Otterbox. After having gone through several iPhone cases that have either started to flake (the silicon ones) or just would break I gave into buying the Otterbox. I mean, the cases I bought cost just as much. And it has already passed the test, I drop my phone regularly and it’s been saved up until now by the Otterbox.
RMS Signature Set MOD collection is my favorite item! It’s so compact and natural and vegan (the base is coconut oil). It gives me a bit of natural color without irritating my skin. I did have to look up this tutorial to figure out how to use it best.
So that was it for this month. I could have gone on, so many things to be grateful for, but I wanted to keep this post short and clear.
Have you tried/done any of the things on my list above? Any comments you would like to share? Would love to hear.
Will 2020 finally by the year that I get my driver’s license?
I’m a pretty independent person. I have always been able to get from A to B by bike or public transport. I have visited cities, all by myself or with one of my children simply by relying on anything else but driving a car myself.
Independent person. But yet at 41 years of age, I still haven’t gotten my driver’s license. My daughter who is 25 years old will have hers before I have mine.
Well, it started out with me being a single mom at 18. I lived in the city at that time and had other expenses and worries that took priority.
When I moved to the suburbs I got myself a bike. It became a bit more difficult for me to get around, but still not enough for me to want to get a driver’s license just because I couldn’t really afford the driver’s lessons, let alone a car. Even a used one.
First and last try
Then when I got married, my husband encouraged me to get my driver’s license. one summer we 9he) drove to the South of France and that took us 12 hours and my husband had to pull over an hour away from our destination so he could have a nap. How much easier would it be if I too could drive? I started to feel some guilt about him having to drive all of the time.
So in 2013 when I was pregnant I went to take my theoretical exam and I passed the first time. I could already see myself driving our little one to school and being able to get the groceries myself.
But the plan was for my husband to teach me to drive… That did not work out. My husband was impatient, I was pregnant and hormonal…it was just not a good mix and before you knew it, my learners permit expired. *felt like such a failure*
Fast forward to 2020. I am now, unfortunately, a divorcee, chronically ill and a single mom who lives pretty far from school and the hospital were my doctors are, and after having biked 25 km a day to school and back, (plus having had multiple flat tires for no apparent reason), I am admitting defeat.
I’m studying again. Not so much has changed since 2013 luckily and I remember most things. I will hopefully be able to do the theoretical exam this week.
The next step will then be the driver’s lessons. I will have to take 20 hours of lessons AND THAT’S NOT CHEAP! *praying for the winning lottery ticket*
After the lessons pray some more and try to find an affordable second-hand vehicle and drive on a learner’s permit for 9 months. Then I have to take the practical exam and by the end of 2020 have my driver’s license, if God willing.
Sounds simple enough, eh? But I’m still skeptical. The will is very much there, I long for independence. But nothing seems to come easy to me. I’m sure it won’t be without any (mainly financial) hurdles.
So please tell me I’m not the only 40+ year old without her driver’s license. Can you share with me some positive stories? Prayers are also most welcome, we sure need them. ?
I just came across this post from the Bored Panda shared on Facebook, 30 minutes after writing this post! We got this!
Who is Sinterklaas? Saint Nicholas explained, hereby me! A Canadian mom of three living in the Antwerp province of Belgium.”
‘Sinterklaas” and of course “Zwarte Piet”. Maybe you just moved to this side of the globe and wonder who the heck is this guy that you are seeing all over the place in the form of chocolate and speculaas cookies? He kind of looks like Santa, maybe Santa looks like the Pope here in Belgium/Netherlands?
Even though Saint Nicholas brings presents like Santa, there are quite some big differences. And try explaining that to a 6 six-year-old. More about that in another post.
Here in Belgium, it’s a big big thing. It’s quite as magical as growing up with Santa. Books about Saint Nicholas are read in schools. You can see Saint Nicolas arriving from Spain at the Antwerp harbor from your parent’s shoulders or watch it on tv. You can visit him at the mall and sit on his lap, just like Santa. Saint Nicolas even came to read at our local library. And then on the eve of the 6th of December, the children put out one of their shoes, put a carrot in it or some sugar cubes for the beautiful horse of Sinterklaas. Some children like to even put out a bottle of beer for Saint Nick. Quite different from putting out cookies and milk for Santa.
Sinterklaas is a celebration that is celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium, but where does it actually come from? Have Sinterklaas and Piet always looked like this? And are the Netherlands and Belgium the only countries where it is celebrated? In short, do you know Saint Nicholas? A piece of history.
Saint Nicholas, the saint
Sinterklaas currently lives nice and warm in Spain. Once a year he comes to the Netherlands and Belgium on his steamboat to bring us all presents. However, he has not always lived in Spain, has not always had a steamboat and has not always been called Sinterklaas, but Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas was as the story goes, a monk who was born in the year 280 AD in Asia Minor, now Turkey in the village of Patara. Nicholas was praised in his time for his dedication to his faith and goodness of action. He was a rich man who found joy in giving. Nikolaas was loved by children because he was generous and very friendly to them. He loved doing good deeds, the best-known being that he would have saved 3 sisters from going into slavery and prostitution by giving them a dowry so they could get married. In the course of time, Nicholas grew his popularity and later the church renamed him Saint Nicholas, the saint, patron of both children and sailors.
From Turkey to the Netherlands
The stories of Saint Nicholas became more and more popular and spread over the world via land and sea over time. Sailors took the stories to Italy, where they subsequently spread through Switzerland, Austria, and eventually from Germany to the Netherlands. The journeys made by the stories of St. Nicholas made the story and the face of Sinterklaas change a little to what was celebrated by the people at that time. Sinterklaas, for example, has many similarities with the Germanic god Wodan (also known as Odin). This god flew through the air with a horse and had a large white beard, staff, and red cloak. On his shoulders, he had 2 black ravens who told him about the actions of the people and sometimes he crawled through the chimney of people to scatter seeds in honor of fertility.
A trace of the journey that made the story of Sint Nicholas can be found in different parts of the world. These celebrations show that the sweet story of Sinterklaas that we know today used to have a much darker tone where Piet was sometimes depicted as a demon and where the roe (symbol of fertility) was used to beat women when she left walked down the street.
Such celebrations symbolize the good and the evil and are still celebrated today in countries such as Austria, Switzerland, southern France, Macedonia and even on our own Wadden Islands. These unique celebrations have been preserved because they originated in more isolated places in, for example, mountain villages or on the Wadden Islands where it is more difficult for outsiders to get into local opinion.
Sinterklaas, as he is known to us today, with his loyal servant Zwarte Piet and having a steamboat plus living in Spain, was conceived by the Dutch teacher Jan Schenkman. Jan Schenkman, born in 1806, was the first to write the Sinterklaas story in its current form in a picture book, a story that consists of several books. In his first booklet called “St. Nicholas and his servant,” he gave Zwarte Piet a page suit, clothing worn by squires and introduced new elements such as the steamboat and living in Spain. He also wrote several poems and was the creator of songs such as “Zie ginds komt de stoomboot uit Spanje weer aan“.
From Santa Claus to Santa Claus
For example, the Sinterklaas party as we know it today has come a long way and in its journey, it has been adapted in every place to what best suited the people of that time. Just as the Dutch and Belgians received the Sinterklaas story from their neighbors, so did Dutch immigrants bring the Sinterklaas story by sea to America, from which the Christmas story ultimately emerged. You can find more about the origin of the Christmas story on the website of History.com, follow the link here.
If you did not grow up with Sinterklaas, what were your first thoughts when experiencing this magical time of the year?
How do you explain Sinterklaas or even Santa to your children?
I do not want to lie to my child, but I also do not want to rob him of these magical memory makers and so I’m just waiting until he figures it out himself. If he will ask me at some point whether Sinterklaas exists, I will just simply ask him what he thinks and see from thereon.